« ForrigeFortsæt »
happy only by being good. He has accordingly furnished all the means necessary for securing their good
And it is solely of his free grace, that he sent his Son Jesus, gave him miraculous powers, and qualified him to be the spiritual Savior of mankind. It is solely of his free grace, that he raised the crucified Lord of glory from the dead, exhibited him to competent witnesses, qualified his apostles to publish the history of a divine revelation, and preserved the gospel unimpaired to the present times. It is solely of his free grace, that he now invites us all to come to the fountain of truth and be cleansed from our moral pollution, that he offers the assistance of his holy spirit to all who seek for it in sincerity, and that he aids us in forming christian characters. For all these unspeakable blessings, we can make him no returns; for he is a perfect being, and cannot be benefited by the services of his imperfect children. So long as we refuse to improve these means to our own progress in holiness, we shall not be saved; but we can blame no one but ourselves; for we are all invited to approach the table of spiritual bread and water. We all have ability to comply with the invitation. We are all encouraged by the most animating motives. And we are assured there can be no other way of becoming happy, but by using our own powers in the acquisition of holiness. Although salvation is of free grace, it can be experienced only by those who cultivate christian knowledge, virtue and piety.
Thus, my dear sir, you have my views on the important subject of salvation. I have shown precisely what it is. I have explained how it is obtained. In proof of my positions I challenge an appeal to reason and fact, experience, observation and scripture. My conclusions give rise to one or two most interesting and important questions. In the first place, do not many in christian
lands leave this world without being saved? without acquiring that holiness which is essential to their happiness? Do not many die in their sinfulness? Certainly. You will return to these questions an affirmative answer. Now let me propose a second serious inquiry. Is there any way pointed out in revelation in which sinners can be saved in passing from this life to a future existence? This
you will not pretend. Then must not many go into a future world unsaved, unholy, unfitted for heavenly happiness? This you must admit. There is no possible way in which this conclusion can be fairly avoided. Consequently there must be a future retribution. Now if it was in the power of God to make men holy by a miracle, is it probable that he would thus appear for the salvation of those who had neglected the work during the whole of this probationary scene? Surely not. But I have already shown that goodness can be obtained only by the free choice and persevering exertions of every individual; and therefore no one can be saved until he has forsaken his sins and formed a christian character. I beseech you to consider faithfully the remarks and conclusions of this communication.
LET TER V.
MY DEAR SIR,
I am now prepared to present you the direct scriptural evidence for a future retribution. In my present communication I shall quote some of the
passages which teach or imply that those who become righteous in this world will be rewarded in the next existence. Before I proceed to make my selections I wish to mention a few particulars which we should ever keep in mind when we examine the sacred writings in reference to this doctrine.
In the first place, you will remember that the Jews in the time of our Savior, with the exception of the Sadducees, expected a future existence. You will also recollect that they likewise believed in rewards and
puno ishments beyond the grave. Your principal writers have admitted the truth of these statements. I shall therefore produce no evidence in their support, but take these positions for granted throughout the discussion. Now such being the undisputed facts, you perceive that our Savior had no occasion to teach his hearers in a formal manner the doctrine of a future retribution. he knew the righteous were to be hereafter rewarded
and the wicked punished he was solemnly bound to confirm them in their present belief, and to correct their erroneous notions concerning the modes of divine administration. The case was precisely similar in relation to the existence and perfections of God. This fundamental article of religion was already embraced by the people to whom he preached. You notice that he never gives a formal annunciation of this important truth. He indeed confirms them in their present belief, and corrects their erroneous views of the paternal character of the Almighty. Now if you examine his teachings in relation to a future retribution you will discover that he adopts a similar practice. He confirms their belief in the certainty of rewards and punishments beyond the grave. He never intimates that the truth of this doctrine was even so much as called in question. He enters into no argument in order to remove objections, because none were then advanced. You might therefore as well affirm that Jesus never taught the existence of God as to say that he never proclaimed the doctrine of future retribution.
In the second place, you will remember that the converts from heathenism to whom some of the apostles preached, and to whom most of the epistles were addressed, hoped for a future existence. You will also recollect that they likewise believed that the good would be rewarded and the wicked punished beyond the grave. Your principal writers have admitted the truth of both these assertions; and consequently I shall offer no arguments in their support, but take these positions for granted throughout the discussion. Now these being the undisputed facts, you perceive that the apostles were not called upon to declare in a formal way the doctrine of a future retribution. They had merely to confirm their hearers and readers in their present belief, and